Wildcats Continue Home Stretch with ITA Kickoff Weekend
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Looking to continue its momentum from an impressive start to the 2012 dual-match season, the University of Kentucky men’s tennis team is set to play host to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kickoff Weekend, starting Friday at Noon ET at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
This marks the third consecutive season that Kentucky (4-0) has hosted the event, which is essentially the first and second round of the ITA National Indoor Team Championships. The Wildcats advanced through the event in each of the previous two seasons and went on to have successful runs at the team championships.
The weekend will begin Friday when No. 7 Kentucky hosts No. 57 North Carolina State (4-0) at Noon, followed by No. 22 Tulsa (0-3) and No. 58 East Tennessee State (0-0) at approximately 3 p.m. The non-victorious teams from Friday will begin play Saturday in a consolation match at 10 a.m., while the winning teams from Friday will square off at 1 p.m. Saturday in a championship. The winning team from the championship match will advance to Charlottesville, Va., to play in the ITA National Indoor Team Championships.
“This is a very important weekend for us,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “We have advanced past the opening weekend of the team indoor and outdoor national championships the past two years, so we know the type of focus we are going to have to bring this weekend. Advancing in this tournament can set your team up to do a lot of things later on in the season. North Carolina State is a very similar team to Indiana and we felt we played a good match against IU on Tuesday. We know that we are going to have to be ready to play this weekend against some really good teams.”
UK is one of 15 schools that were chosen to host an ITA Kickoff Weekend event. Those schools were designated as host sites in order of their year-end 2011 Campbell/ITA team ranking. Three visiting schools will travel to each host site for a four-team tournament.
The Wildcats are coming off a 4-0 start the season, including sweeping their home opener Tuesday against No. 29 Indiana and Eastern Kentucky. Senior Eric Quigley was the main headline Tuesday as he earned his 145th career singles win to become the all-time winningest player in school history.
Tulsa heads to Lexington after playing arguably one of the toughest schedules in the nation to date. The Golden Hurricane are 0-3 on the season with all three losses coming to top-20 ranked teams. Tulsa started the year with a 4-3 loss to No. 14 California before dropping another 4-3 contest to No. 6 Stanford last Friday. No. 20 North Carolina gave TU its third loss of the season in a 5-2 win last Sunday. This weekend’s matches will mark the first road match of the year for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa boasts two ranked singles players in No. 83 Ashley Watling and No. 88 Grant Ive, and two ranked doubles teams in No. 3 Watling and Clifford Marsland and No. 37 Ive and Tristan Jackson. UK holds a 2-0 record all-time against Tulsa, dating back to the first ever meeting in 1983.
NC State enters the weekend with an unblemished 4-0 record after 7-0 wins over Gardner-Webb and UNC-Asheville in the first weekend of the year. Last weekend, the Wolfpack earned a pair of 6-1 wins over Penn State and East Carolina. All four matches were played in Raleigh, N.C. NC State returns 10 letterwinners from last year’s squad that went 10-14 en route to a top-60 final ranking. The Wolfpack have one ranked singles player in No. 100 Austin Powell. NC State won the only meeting against Kentucky all-time, taking down the Wildcats 4-3 in 2006.
East Tennessee State will begin its season at the event as the Buccaneers have not played a dual match this season. ETSU returns several letterwinners from last season, including the 2009-10 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Sander Gille. Kentucky has faced the Bucs a total of 14 times, holding a 13-1 record.
Live scores and an interactive live blog for fans will be kept online at UKathletics.com. Fans can also follow all the action from all 15 events around the country by going to ITAtennis.com or using the hashtag #ITAKickOff on Twitter.
For more information on the Kentucky men's tennis team, follow "UKmenstennis" on Twitter or "University of Kentucky men's tennis team" on Facebook.